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Customer Service: A Case History

By Fred Granville,

Customer Service: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As an independent consultant, I know my business lives or dies depending on the customer service I provide.  I also receive services from others, and my experience as a customer has varied tremendously.  This summer, as a services consumer, I lived through “the good”, “the bad”, and “the ugly”.  I also enjoyed an instance of truly great customer service, and I want to tell you about it. 

My office is in my home, so a while back, I arranged to receive my business mail at a store that provides private mailboxes.  (The name has been withheld to protect the guilty.)  In June, I received a letter from the owner of the store saying that he was planning to close it and forward all incoming mail to another store.  The second store was further away from my home.  That was “the bad.”

A few weeks later, I arrived at the second store only to learn that it was closing too – the next day.  Nobody at the store was sure where the incoming mail would now go.  Since I was expecting some important mail at the time, that was “the ugly”.  Fortunately, a few dedicated employees at the second store made arrangements to forward all mail to a third store.  The third store was under different ownership, and was under no obligation to receive the mail from the first two stores.  But they agreed to accept the mail, and that was “the good." 

By August, I had communicated my new address to most of the parties on my list.  One of these was the Kansas City Business Journal.  To be completely honest, I had not felt an overwhelming sense of urgency to change my address at the Kansas City Business Journal.  I firmly believed my business would survive if I missed an issue or two.

Further, after my experiences with other parties, I fully expected that I would have to recite the alphabet backwards or explain the theory of relativity in order to process the address change.  Here is what actually happened. 

I called the Kansas City Business Journal, and a real person answered the phone.  She was so cheerful that I began to entertain the unrealistic notion that I might achieve my goal.  When I explained the purpose of my call, she promptly forwarded me to another real person, who was (if at all possible) even more cheerful.  “Oh, your address has changed?” she asked brightly.  “Let’s take care of that right now”, and she changed it on the spot.  She went on to say, “We just mailed out the most recent issue.  Is there any chance that you might not receive it?”  (Clearly she did not share my belief that my business would survive if I missed an issue.)  She then proceeded to gather the last two issues and personally mail them to my new address.  At the end of our call, she thanked me for being a subscriber.  Now that was customer service!  (Shortly after that, both issues arrived at my new address.) 

Am I blowing this experience out of proportion?  Maybe.  After all, it’s not like the folks at the Business Journal had just completed a three-tier client-server application that would save me $5,000,000 in the first year.  But sometimes, it’s the little things that count.  As I reflect on this experience, I realize that the Kansas City Business Journal raised the bar for customer service in my own consulting practice.  For starters, if I am at a client location, I am not at my office to answer the phone in person.  I give my cell phone number in my voice message, but that is one more step a customer (or potential customer) must take to reach me.  Is that really OK? 

Looking beyond the telephone experience, I believe that I give my all when I am performing services for a client.  I make every effort to follow through when I say I am going to do something.  But that is only my perception.  I can only hope that my clients feel the same way.  If they don’t, they may not tell me, and they certainly won’t write an article about it.  They will simply do business with someone else.  The bottom line is that I want my clients to feel the same way about working with me that I felt after my experience with the Kansas City Business Journal.  People remember excellence after they’ve been through the good, the bad, and the ugly. 


Fred Granville (CCNP), is a Principal and Networking Consultant for FLG Networking Services in Overland Park, Kansas.  Fred specializes in LAN/WAN network design & installation, VPN networks, and secure Internet connectivity.  He can be reached at 913-268-1061. Or by email: flg @ f  For more information, visit FLG Networking Services on the Web at

See also: Customer service: how to delight your customers


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